What a difference a contract makes
I have a kick ass job that is kicking my ass.
It is the sole reason for the recent silence on this blog. In the last few years of school, travel and NGO work I had clearly forgotten what it’s like to work in a large (nay, global) corporation. “Schizophrenic” crosses your mind—often, actually—because your normal feelings of individuality, uniqueness and self-direction are subsumed in the transition to “team player;” in effect a “yes man” despite being told repeatedly that you’ll be fired if you’re a “yes man” because “yes men” just nod their heads a lot and never get the job done anyway. Thus the trick is to “think outside the box” while discretely wiping the brown off your nose.
And as with most delusional states, there are indeed supernatural forces at play, influencing individuals’ thoughts and actions in ways that are often bizarre. This paranormal force is referred to as the “head office” which is—natch—9,000 km away.
We constantly write reports to justify our job by using “key performance indicators”. We write and rewrite weekly and biweekly reports, business reviews, monthly business reviews, quarterly business reviews and at least four different monthly reports to four other departments you don’t even work with. Then you email them to people who never read them because if they did they’d realize you did “action” that “pipeline forecast” with all the correct “leads generation” segments about three-and-a-half weeks ago.
We have back-to-back meetings to discuss “moving forward” and all the “achievement steps” we’re going to take, but somehow never quite get around to because we’re so busy having meetings, teleconferences and briefings. We agree we’re hampered by “informational silos” while simultaneously hoarding our bit of institutional turf. You must have "team leadership" in order to work here, but that's just code for you having the responsibilities of a manager, but without the pay or respect. Sure, it’s a “fast-paced environment” but that just means there’s no training whatsoever. It’s also a good thing to have “problem-solving skills”—and you’ll need ‘em—because your shiny new job is really with a corporation in perpetual chaos.
And yet and yet...I know my job does not compare to some of the jobs people do in Vietnam.
Some people here are “voluntary environment workers.”
Most of them are former fishermen and women who ran out of time and fish and now find themselves scavenging for plastic bags littered about urban areas. Depending on the thickness of the plastic, collectors earn either 45 cents/kg or 20 cents/kg. You can image how much waste plastic you have to collect to make, say, $2 a day.
Some people sell lottery tickets, mostly children and decrepit seniors. Some collect cardboard, paper and tin cans. There’s not much truck with glass collecting—there’s really no money in that. The construction crews are in perpetual motion as many sleep on site, going from job to job and calling it home. They bathe in buckets on the sidewalks as the business men and women step around them. The motorbike (xe om) drivers often call their bikes home too, sleeping on top of their bikes for the night after their 16-hour days.
Still other folks are “beaters.” They use sticks to whack dust and particles off cement and animal feed bags so the bags are “clean” before shipment. These men, women and children make about the same as the environment workers, and they’ve been doing it for years. Problem is the silica particles in the haze of dust they work in. That would account for their hoarking and spitting and coughing or having chronic respiratory ailments like bronchitis and pneumonia. Yet, because of poverty, lack of education and legal indifference, the workers don’t wear masks. They couldn't afford them anyway. They just suck lemons when it’s too hard to breathe or eat pineapple to quell their chest pains.
Maybe I’ll look into bringing bananas to my job.